Jaimie is a 17-year-old girl who identifies as White and lives in a Local Authority home with other children who are looked after. Jaimie has been in the care of the Local Authority since she was 10 years old and, in that time, she has been moved placements numerous times – eight in the last five years alone. She knows her father and has had on and off contact with him. There have been concerns around child sexual exploitation and harmful sexual behaviour in regards to her father but he has recently reconnected with Jaimie. She has no relationship with her mother or stepfather. She has a nan and two younger siblings who are also in the Local Authority’s care.
Jaimie has been known to Social Services her whole life. Over the last seven years, she has had to move placement time and time again, often as a result of her displaying aggressive and sometimes physically violent behaviour towards other children and staff and them not being able to manage the risk presented both to herself and others. Jaimie sometimes threatens others with violence when she feels she has been disrespected and has received criminal convictions related to criminal damage, violence and affray.
Jaimie’s experience of ‘homelife‘ is highly fractured, having never been in one placement long enough to have the opportunity to develop meaningful and trusted relationships with the people who are there to care for her.
In the months leading up to SHiFT involvement, Jaimie’s behaviour was becoming more concerning. She was spending most evenings and nights out on the streets, staying up all night, being at risk by hanging out with older people, drinking and, sometimes, getting into fights and arguments.
Jaimie’s Guide describes her as being highly vulnerable – with no reliable adults in her life, Jaimie is an easy target for both sexual and criminal exploitation. She was referred to SHiFT because she, along with two other girls referred at the same time, were known to hanging around with a concerning crowd. Despite this, Jaimie was somehow falling through the gaps of support from the Local Authority and other services. The only other professional in Jaimie’s life is her Social Worker, and this relationship will be coming to an end when Jaimie turns 18 and she begins to work with a new Social Worker in the Leaving Care team.
Getting to know Jaimie
Jaimie is always well-presented, taking great pride in her appearance. She has blonde hair and likes to dress smartly. Jaimie’s Guide, Azaria, knew Jaimie from a previous placement some years before. With Jaimie’s humour, caring attitude and insightful comments about her past experiences, Azaria was pleased to be working with her again – she knew they would find a connection that would work for Jamie. But, Azaria also knew that developing a relationship with Jaimie would take time given Jaimie’s history of fractured relationships and lack of trustworthy adults/role models in her life. Jaimie is mindful of the people around her and highly attuned to disrespectful language. So, Azaria took the time to get to know Jaimie, her interests and hobbies, and the people around her. Azaria describes Jaimie as ‘a dreamer’, someone who has hopes for a more positive future and who, once you take the time to get to know her, is really sweet and caring.
Jaimie’s experience of education has been almost entirely lacking. She says her mother never really took her to primary school and, after going into care, her secondary education was constantly interrupted by movements between different placements. Her Social Worker explains that she had been moved out of the borough, in the hope of moving her away from some negative influences in her life. Unfortunately, the Local Authority could not find a school that would accept Jaimie and she missed nearly 18 months of secondary education. Her final years at school were then interrupted by Covid. Despite all of this, Jaime still managed to achieve a handful of GCSEs.
Getting alongside and creating the SHiFT difference
Azaria worked closely with Jaimie’s social worker in the first few weeks of getting alongside Jaimie. Their strong relationship provided a good foundation for Azaria to be able to speak with Jaimie. They began by just going out for food, mostly MacDonald’s – a favourite of Jaimie’s, although Azaria has now encouraged her to try new foods and they have been going to Chinese restaurants more recently. Jaimie’s world is small, with few reliable people in her life. She spends much of her time watching TV as a form of escape – staying up most of the night and sleeping much of the day. Azaria has demonstrated patience towards Jaimie, encouraging her to see the benefits of a more structured day and night and to begin thinking about how she can have more positive activities in her life. As part of this, Azaria has been going horse riding with Jaimie, something Jaimie has loved doing.
However, Jaimie’s life has often been characterised by crises. This has been no different since Azaria has been working with her. Initially focusing on employment and self-esteem, Azaria’s work with Jaimie had to pivot quickly when a health scare resulted in a 2am, panicked phone call from Jaimie. Azaria was there, to answer the phone and attend the subsequent health appointments. Azaria was the person Jaimie could turn to.
With sustained support from her Guide for the last nine months, Jaimie’s confidence in seeking her own medical support is increasing. With Azaria’s support, she has accessed mental health services and has been diagnosed with depression. She is being referred to a team for support and has been to develop better sleeping patterns.
Azaria’s ability to be flexible and provide support to Jaimie as and when she needs it has been an essential part of their relationship building. Azaria has delivered on her promise to be present in Jaimie’s life – to be available and ready to help her in the way that Jaimie needs. With Jaimie’s long history of services involved in her life, Jaimie says that most important to her is that people listen – listen to what she wants and to her needs. Azaria has not only been able to develop a trusted relationship with Jaimie that has allowed her to listen, but also has been able to provide safe challenge in a manner that Jamie responds to and help build a plan together for Jaimie’s future.
A key part of the work with Jaimie has been to help her find ways to express her needs to others in a calm manner that communicates her feelings without becoming aggressive. Azaria has been working with her to learn different techniques of engaging with others and talking with her about the consequences different behaviours can have. Recently, Jaimie has started to use the systems within her placement to raise issues, asking Azaria to support her in writing an email to make requests.
Azaria’s work has helped Jaimie have a more positive view of herself. Azaria gently challenges Jaimie’s negative self-talk and praises her and encourages her to see the skills that she has. Beyond this though, Azaria has been able to get alongside Jaimie to build her confidence to enter new spaces and try new things. Jaimie believing that she is able to do new things, that people won’t judge her, and that she is capable of getting a job are the first stepping stones to her realising her aspirations for a life without the problems she has had so far. Things are on the up… Jaimie’s currently working on her CV.